Russia to rebuild army by 2016


MOSCOW. (Nikita Petrov for RIA Novosti)

The financial crisis has affected Russia's military reform plan. That became clear after Dmitry Medvedev signed a corresponding decree, now posted on his website.

In contrast to Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's order issued last year to finalize the army and navy reforms by 2012, the new presidential decree sets the date at January 1, 2016.

It is not the transition from the "district-army-division-regiment" hierarchy to "district-operations command center-brigade" pattern, or the reduction in number of cadre units, reshaping the regiments and divisions into permanent readiness brigades, which is a major challenge in terms of organization and expenditure, that is the main obstacle to Russian military reform.

The biggest headache is the reduction of 200,000 officers and the abolition of chief warrant officers and midshipmen. During the reform, all the reduced personnel with a service record of over 10 years are to be provided with housing.

Estimates show that 60,000 officers and 60,000 warrant officers who will be dismissed from service or transferred to the reserve, have no personal residences. Given that by mid-2008, around 122,400 servicemen needed official or personal housing, while the Defense Ministry provides only 30,000 apartments annually by construction or purchasing, it is clear that it will be a complex task to execute the social protection measures envisioned by law in the next two or three years.

A decision not to speed up the reform in some directions, including the reduction of officers and WOs, however, would help resolve housing issues.

Military education is another problem. Currently, there is no demand for the 15,000 to 16,000 officers that graduate from Russia's 65 higher military education institutions each year. By 2016, the total strength of the Russian Armed Forces will be at 1,000,000 men, including 150,000 officers; and they will therefore require as few as 7,000 to 7,500 graduates. This will decrease the number of military schools to approximately 10 backbone institutions.

According to the plan, the first stage will involve the creation of three military training and research centers for the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The bulk of the funding will apparently be allocated for the establishment of a Naval Academy on Kotlin island in the Kronshtadt district outside St. Petersburg, which will include five military schools, professional officer courses, three naval research institutes, the Nakhimov Naval Academy and St. Petersburg-based Naval Cadet Corps. The transfer will require the construction of educational and laboratory buildings, houses and dormitories. The infrastructure will include operational models of surface ships and submarines and separate compartments. The project requires enormous funding, and it is unclear what the amount will be.

The transfer of naval schools from St. Petersburg to Kronshtadt will be performed only after the new station is commissioned. It could take three to five years. It is clear that the military education reform cannot be finalized by 2012, let alone the military reform itself.

Along with the naval training and research center, other branches of the armed forces need similar facilities. Additional funding is needed to finance troop exercises, including sea exercises and aviation training, and also to purchase modern combat equipment.

Military experts regard the presidential decree signed on December 29, 2008, as reasonable. There is no need to hurry, as there's no large-scale war in sight, and quality is therefore a higher priority than time. If no unnecessary haste takes place, it looks possible that by 2016, Russia could have the army it deserves.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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